You never forget your first cruise. Like your first kiss, the memory sweetly lingers.
It’s those warm fuzzies that drew us back to Celebrity’s Constellation in December%u2014eight years after she introduced us to a whole new way to travel.
But those were the days of midnight buffets and chocolates on our pillow. They’re long gone and the Constellation is a different place, run by the same%u2014but yet a very different%u2014cruise line.
The Ship: Wearing the Years Well
The Constellation has held up very nicely since its 2002 inauguration. Its upgrade and “Solsticization” in 2013 brought new beds to the cabins, refreshed carpeting throughout, new restaurants, bars and more. It’s a handsome ship, with a commanding marble staircase dominating the Grand Foyer on Deck 3.
One of the ship’s highlights is at the very back of Deck 10, what I call the “Teak Deck” for its upgraded picnic furniture (officially, it’s the “Sunset Bar”). The little patio, like most of the ship (including rooms and balconies), is now smoke-free, enabling all of us to enjoy the view of the stern’s wake without wheezing.
The ship is compact and easy to get around; we had the layout down in aday. Its relative smallness at 91,000 tons gave it an intimate feel, which, after many trips on larger vessels, was a nice change of pace.
The Entertainment: Mixing It Up
There’s been a big change in the daytime activities. Where once there were guest speakers, there are now “Life Enhancement” lectures on health and fitness. “Enhance Your Life Through Exercise” and “Happy Feet for Healthy Life” were some of the offerings.
There are also more pool and game show activities, as the cruise line works to appeal to younger cruisers. An officer vs. guest pool volleyball game made its debut on this trip, joining the usual “Newlywed Game” takeoff, “Battle of the Sexes” and “Liar’s Club,” which%u2014a first for us%u2014featured the ship’s captain on the panel.
Evening entertainment was good quality, albeit standard fare%u2014Broadway-style shows, a comedian, violinist, magician and singer. Off-stage entertainment ran the gamut, from folk music to classical to rock and salsa.
The Food: A Turn Toward Ordinary
Alas, from this foodie’s perspective, quality was sacrificed for quantity. When we first took the Connie, the three-star Michelin winner Michel Roux was running the show and each meal in the main dining room was a gastronomical high. Today, the food is plain at best. Entrees ranged from good (there was a nice crispy breaded pork chop and decent tenderloin) to poor (one steak had a very strange consistency). Desserts are merely ordinary. Instead of the rich and decadent “Opera” pastry I enjoyed on Princess, for example, the Constellation serves up chocolate layer cake.
The ship’s buffet, the Oceanview Café, runs until 9:30 p.m. at dinner, but compared to buffets on competing lines, seems an afterthought. There are some nice features, such as made-to-order grilling (choice of steak, salmon, chicken and pork), stir-fry and pasta, good pizza and an ice cream bar with syrup and candy toppings. But the desserts seldom varied from puddings or cupcakes.
On the other hand, the breakfast and lunch buffets offered a huge variety. (Although sorely missing was the array of fabulous rolls we once looked forward to.)
The Extras: A Few Still Remain
Some of what earned Celebrity the reputation of a premier cruise line is still there%u2014the welcome champagne at embarkation, iced towels greeting you after a hot day at port, but we find it a changed cruise line, and the Constellation, a changed ship.
Those sailing on the Constellation for the first time will enjoy a smaller ship experience, quality entertainment and a crew eager to please. In short, a good cruise, but not a spectacular one.
--Musing About Cruising, http://musingaboutcruising.blogspot.com
this was a 16 day transatlantic cruise rome to fort L. They changed 2 port itenerarries for the worse, Great experience, no complaints,
I enjoyed the larger newer Solstice more because it had a sports bar and movie theater, many experenced cruisers differd with my opinion. This was my 3rd celebrity cruise and they all were excelent xxxx
Embarkation: A breeze. Arrived at the terminal at 10.45, went through express check-in, on board sipping champagne at 11.20. Headed for the buffet and enjoyed a great lunch by the window. We were docked at right angles to the Oasis of the Seas-what a behemoth! The cabins were ready at 1 p.m. and the luggage arrived by 3.15. Checked out our dining room location (a table for 8 on the main floor, centre), did the muster drill and got unpacked.
Our cabin: An outside on deck 2 mid ship just down the hall from the cabin we had in 2008, but looking much better after the refurbish-rather subdued décor but quite classy. New flat screen T.V. Very comfortable bed. The only wear and tear I noticed was a little rust on the bottom of the window. We met our room attendant who was very helpful and efficient-we asked to have the beds put together the next morning as one king because of the room configuration but it was done when we came back after dinner.
Main Dining Room: We had early seating and great table mates-4 more Canadians and a couplefrom Ohio. Thoroughly enjoyed them all. Our waiter was very good and the assistant was outstanding. He was ill one night and we all noticed the difference in the flow of the meal without him. Our maitre'd was a woman from Brazil who was at our table, and everyone's, every single night-somewhat unusual in my experience. Maybe a little over-zealous. DH complained to her about the bitter coffee one night and she immediately tore into the assistant waiter which was not warranted (in my opinion). The overall food was excellent-well prepared, well presented and served. My husband did make one bad choice-pork belly. Not sure why this is even on the menu-90% fat, and on one occasion my soup must have been made with salt water.
The Buffet: On previous cruises we've very seldom used the buffet-too busy and too repetitive. This time, however, we had lunch there 4 or 5 times. It never seemed to be overly crowded; we always found a window seat. And there was a huge selection to choose from-the usual hot entrees, made to order salads, Asian food, British food, pizza, made to order pasta, and custom made paninis. And yes! They still have trays and waiters to carry the tray if needed.
The Aqua Spa Café: This was our other choice for lunch. Not a huge selection but very unusual, very healthy cuisine-you had to ask for butter! You could order grilled chicken, salmon or pork chop. There was a choice of 3 or 4 salads, plus marinated fruits and a couple of low cal desserts. The café is located inside the solarium which can be a little steamy but once again we were always able to find a table by an open window.
Specialty Restaurants: This was our 13th cruise and the first time we ever ate in a surcharge restaurant-and very glad we did! We chose Ocean Liners and the meal and service were beyond expectation. I had steak and lobster, my husband opted for just lobster. After an appetizers of scallops and a goat cheese soufflé, I could (should) have had dessert and called it a night. I managed half the fillet and half the lobster but my husband was happy to help out. He also managed crepes for dessert which were prepared table side. A very memorable evening. This restaurant was very well attended but not so the Tuscan Grill which is a new addition. Not sure why but never saw anyone there. We had full intentions of trying the Bistro on Five but ran out of time and appetite. There were also two "Brunches at Sea" which were served in the Dining Room and were really over the top-there was literally everything-even caviar. But no crab or lobster.
The Entertainment: Celebrity has been our cruise line of choice for quite a few years but we've always thought the entertainment was lacking. Not so on this cruise. The resident singers and dancers were exceptional and they introduced a new show called Neverland. It was very ambitious for a cruise production with lots of special effects and fantastic costumes. We also got a very entertaining pianist, a very talented female singer from Vancouver and a magician (actually slight of hand artist). And our favorite Perry Grant did a great show in the theatre one night but I still think he is better suited to Michaels Club, which was SRO every night he performed there. There was also one of the best acapella (?) groups I've ever heard and a female string quartet who performed in different venues.
Public Areas: The new ice martini bar is a nice touch with juggling bartenders. There are also new wine dispensing machines on Deck 5 adjacent to the new Bistro on 5. The rendezvous lounge looks great with all new furniture ( maybe recovered). But the biggest improvement is Reflections, formerly the Bar at the Edge of the Earth-what a difference! This now has to be one of the most beautiful lounges afloat-we were there every day for sail away and sometimes during the day just to relax and enjoy the expansive view. The pool area was probably the most crowded public area, especially on sea days. The Thallasotherapy pool was never very crowded which was a pleasant surprise and the spa was well maintained. There was also no pressure to buy spa products. I really enjoyed the Persian Gardens! The casino was always bright and busy and thankfully smoke free. The internet café was well staffed-one IT spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out why my cell phone wouldn't work-not part of his job description I'm sure.
On Board Activities: The usual trivia, scrap booking, pool games, dance classes etc. during the day. Many more choices at night. One of the main reasons why everyone (that I spoke to) enjoyed this cruise was the Cruise Director Sue Denning. In a word, she was amazing. Not sure if she ever slept. On port days, she was there when we disembarked, was at karaoke, in the disco, did a trivia, a scarf demo, and she sang in the farewell show. I've never seen such a visible CD. She is a former music hall entertainer and actress from Britain and a genuine people person.
The Crew and Officers: They were all very friendly and accessible, always smiling and acknowledging you, from the cleaners all the way up to the Captain, who was very personable. He did a question and answer session along with the Chief Engineer, the CD and one other officer where he displayed his great sense of humor. He had started at the bottom as a painter and worked his way to the top so he related well to all those working behind the scenes. He also did a walk through the dining room one evening, chatting to as many as he could, including a young boy at the next table, even posing for a picture.
The Itinerary: There were 8 ports of call, none new for us but we revisited some of our favorites. We did one cruise shore excursion to the beach in Barbados, other than that we did our own thing. We did 2 "stay-on-the-ship-port-days" along with 5 days at sea which was perfect for us. I noticed that the photographers were far less pushy when you disembarked-one "no thank you" was enough. Along with the cold cloths and drinks on your return, they now set up a small seating area with wicker furniture on a rug under a gazebo!
Disembarkation: We are Elite members of the Captains Club so we took advantage of the departure lounge in the cinema where a continental breakfast was set up. Once again, not at all crowded although there were 400 Elites on this cruise. We were off the ship at 8.30, got the cruise shuttle to the airport and were checked in at 9.30. And we were worried that we might not make our 12.30 flight?
I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this cruise. Very restricted smoking areas, no in-room announcements, no reams of paper from the Art Gallery or Spa. And a dress code that was adhered to by 95% of the passengers. I think our days of trying other cruise lines are over-we'll stick with Celebrity.
The Constellation is a well managed and the service is excellent. The major problem is with the cabin beds. We had a suite and the mattress's were so old and lumpy, we hardly slept at all even with the steward trying his best to solve the problem. One of the 'covers' provided had pee stains. Then how about - put one other lumpy mattress on top of the already lump. Almost fell out of the bed. We were told "the ship" had NO new mattress and they could do nothing more.
When we complained - we received a $89.00 refund WOW! Returned the check with the message, "We will no longer cruise with Celebrity." Just returned from a cruise with Norwegian - the mattress are NEW, LONGER AND WIDER and double sheeted. They have our business.
PS: Finally, after 4 days - I just bought my own foam cover in Spain.
Fantastic experience. Fantastic food and personnel. They really make you feel like a house guest. Very relaxed atmosphere. The buffet is always open, so you don't have to run to make meal times. Free coffee, tea and lemonade 24 hrs a day. Possible to eat outside on the aft deck. Nobody minds if you take food from the buffet to another part of the ship or to your cabin.
Free tropical pool and sauna.
Very quiet cabins with TV, but no radio and no clock. Ours was a decoration disaster; brown/beige carpet, pink chair and orange curtain. The matrasses had the shape of hunderds of people.
Paint spills on the balcony.
The deck chairs in the pool area are old and faded and there are not enough of them.
Shore excursions were very expensive, so we didn't take any of them. Exept for the main dining room, none of the public area's were very appealing. Bus transfer to/from the airport in Barcelona is the same price as a taxi, so if you travel with two of more, a taxi is the better option. Even with the airport surcharge and the port surcharge ourdriver on the way back invented.
Although the food and the atmosphere were far better than other ships, we will not travel with this company again. The reason : their smoking policy. Smoking is stricktly forbidden in your cabin. So is drinking and making your own coffee. What's next?
My friend and I were Concierge Class guests on the Celebrity Constellation sailing out of New York on October 30th. It was my friend's first ever cruise and my first Celebrity cruise. It was a wonderful experience, very civilized. Even though some soft goods updates are overdue, the ship is very welcoming, easy to navigate and staffed by friendly professionals. We enjoyed the onboard entertainment, especially Michael's Pub.
The port of Labadee has come a long way since my first visit on a Royal Caribbean ship many years back. Many activities are available and we enjoyed parasailing.
The one day in port, one day at sea worked well for us and many others as well.
A word of advice not only regarding this ship, but perhaps others as well.
Avoid an inside stateroom located by a pantry! You will hear very loud noises throughout the day and night with only an intermission between 11:00pm and 5:00am.
We booked cabin number 9187 on the Constellation and it was a nightmare. After repeated complaints to Guest Relations, they finally moved us to a cabin with a balcony at no extra charge.
These rooms really shouldn't be sold to paying passengers in the first place. Had we not been moved, it would have ruined our trip.
Celebrity is also aware of the noise in that room and they continue to sell it.
On a lighter note, the ship overall is beautiful. The food is about above average, but certainly nothing special except for the Ocean Liner Restaurant.
Introduction We are a couple in our 50's. This was my husband's second cruise and my eighth. I have cruised on RCCL, Princess and Celebrity ships over the last 20 years. Ours was an 11 night holiday cruise over Christmas and New Years, with 5 days at sea. Ports included Grand Cayman, Cartagena, Panama, Costa Rica, and Cozumel.
High Points The ship is beautiful. It is a very easy ship to navigate with several banks of elevators which are well positioned for easy access. Public rooms are spacious and nicely appointed. The theatre is very comfortable with loveseats instead of single seat seating. Small underlit tables are handy for drinks and purses. I found many nooks and crannies to sit and read and people watch. The promenade deck is equipped with lounge chairs for an afternoon snooze. The ship has aged gracefully and there is little sign of wear and tear.
The cabin was very well designed. We chose an ocean view on the bottom level. It had plenty of space to store clothing and the beds were high enough so that four large suitcases could be hidden, out of sight. The bathroomwas well stocked with spa quality soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner in refillable bottles. The view was superb. I spent a fair bit of time curled up in the oversized chair by the window looking at the waves which were only about 30 feet below. In fact we liked the cabin so much that we would choose this kind of view, instead of a balcony, for future sailings.
The musical venues on the ship made a positive contribution to our enjoyment of this cruise. We danced in the Rendez Vous Lounge every night, to the music of the Carl William Quartet. He approached us on the first night and asked us, along with other passengers, what kind of music we liked to dance to and he continued to be warm and charming throughout the cruise. The house band, Fusion, was excellent and took delight in playing requests and serenading people who were celebrating birthdays or anniversaries. A really good guitarist/vocalist played in the vicinity of the Café Nova each evening. It was a fun place to go to enjoy a coffee and chat. The A Cappella group was also excellent. I have never been on a cruise which offered such an extensive menu of music, with something for everyone, scheduled at regular times and in very pleasant settings.
I am not a big fan of buffets, but I must admit that I became one on the Constellation. Line-ups were short when we had breakfast and lunches, and the selection of food was long! Made to order omelettes were always available along with breakfast breads and pastries that were delicious. Made to order pasta was also wonderful at lunch, cooked by a chef who could not hide his pleasure in preparing such delicious offerings to the passengers. I am sorry that I did not make a note of his name. Desserts were plentiful and really tasty at the lunch buffet. Snacks were offered in the late afternoon and were in the form of small sandwiches and buns and assorted cakes. Timing is everything on a ship and a few times we were too late to take advantage of these wonderful little bite-sized treats.
I am a person who notices small details and I appreciate ambience. One of the features I enjoy about RCCL and Celebrity is their attention to art on the ship. The ship is a floating gallery and whoever selects the pieces should be praised for their ability to select works that speak to so many types of people. I always wondered why the cruise lines have not made guided tour tapes with headphones, to be used by passengers, as an onboard activity for sea days. There is an air of whimsy to the collection and it serves at least for me, as kind of a visual banquet. Sculpture is everywhere and the reclining woman in the indoor pool area is stunning. You will find very little bare wall space on this ship and I am the kind of passenger who will stop and look at framed photos lining the corridor and I will appreciate each featured piece on the landings of the staircases. My hat goes off to those who have made the decision to spend so much money amassing such a collection. I enjoyed it every day of the cruise.
I first tried a Thalassotherapy pool onboard the Century a few years back before the ship was refurbished and the questionable decision was made to do away with the pool. A much larger Thalassotherapy pool is found on board the Constellation. It is covered and intended for adult use only. Spa music is piped in and the whole atmosphere is calming and soothing. The water is very warm in this pool with curved overhead pipes positioned in the corners which spout high pressured jets of water intended to massage the back. At each side of the pool is an elevated rack of wide smooth pipes which you can stretch out on and jets of water pulse under you for a full body massage effect. In short, it is a little bit of aquatic heaven!
The Ports were interesting on this cruise. We experienced the partial crossing of the Panama Canal by ferry, the only excursion which we booked through the ship. It was really enjoyable despite the to/fro hour long bus ride on a bumpy road. The ferry departed from the second set of locks and the guides on the bus and ferry were both informative and entertaining. We even saw a crocodile. A light buffet lunch was served and cold drinks were provided. In Grand Cayman we took a cab to the Reef Grill and enjoyed their beach for the full afternoon. Lounges can be rented for 5 dollars and an umbrella for 10 dollars. Food is good and reasonably priced and change rooms/washrooms are available. One great feature about this spot is that they have a beach and bar web camera so that at a prearranged time you can stand and wave at your friends and family. Don't miss Nachi Cocum while in Cozumel. You don't have to reserve a spot at the Reef Grill, but you must reserve this beach club in advance and place a small deposit online. Like the Reef Grill, it is a short cab ride away from the port. The property is gorgeous and the service outstanding. It has a pool with a swim up bar, change rooms and, for an extra fee, opportunities to engage in water activities. Upon arrival, you are escorted to shaded lounges by your waiter who will continue to serve you drinks and superb food, covered under your admission, throughout your day long stay. The guacamole and breaded grouper are wonderful and the best Pina Colodas I had on the cruise were from Nachi Cocum. The sand is a little coarse, so you may want to wear beach shoes. After a swim, you can snooze on the hammocks under the many palm trees which grace this property. We felt that we received excellent value for the money we paid. Last, but not least, is the Craft Market in Costa Rica, just steps away from the ship. Don't miss it. You can get great deals on coffee and vanilla and the crafts made from the local wood, exotic to us, are beautifully made and very reasonably priced.
Low Points I am sorry to report that the quality of Celebrity food, in the dining room, has declined. This was the first cruise I have ever taken where I didn't look forward to my evening meal. The food was not bad. It simply wasn't very good and if I had to analyze why that was so, it would come down to a lack of flavor. The food was bland. Strangely, desserts in the dining room were not nearly as flavorful and appealing as those served in the buffet. I kept hoping that the food would improve after the first couple of days, but it did not.
Security was also an issue on this ship. Children were in places they should not have been and the security crew turned a blind eye to it. Even when confronted with the fact that children were in the adult hot tubs, the security officer I approached seemed very reluctant to address the issue with the parents present. Chair hogs were out in full force and despite warnings posted on the daily passenger newsletters left in the cabins, these inconsiderate passengers were given free reign to place their personal belongings on lounges, walk away and not return for hours, thus depriving other passengers of the use of these chairs. The posted consequence for this behavior was to have the property removed by the pool attendants, to be reclaimed later at a specific location. Not once did I see this happen. The most disturbing incident of a serious breach in security took place when an unescorted child of about 8 years old was allowed to board the ship after walking back alone along the pier at Costa Rica. This disregard for the rules and safety on the part of ship security personnel left me wondering what would happen in the event of a real crisis on board the ship or at sea.
Lower Points While this cruise was operating at full capacity and the passengers were paying premium fares because Christmas and New Years were celebrated during the cruise, I was extremely disappointed with the nature and lack of festivities to mark the holidays. The Christmas show in the theatre was embarrassing. Production problems were obvious to the audience from the start and the stage was filled with a mish-mash of all things Christmas, assembled without thought, imagination or any sense of design. To call the whole fiasco amateurish would be an understatement. Carols were sung by some of the entertainment crew on the staircase on Christmas Eve and once again the whole thing seemed to have been thrown together at the last minute, rounding up whoever they could manage to find. Each day we received a newsletter in our cabin listing the activities for the day and filled with advertising sheets promoting Celebrity excursions, services and products for purchase. The song books, which were so hastily distributed minutes before the carols were sung, should have been enclosed in this package along with the program of songs. Instead the whole activity was brief and poorly attended. The final omission which made me most indignant was the lack of music in the dining room on Christmas day. When I asked why Christmas music wasn't being played over the sound system, at the very least, the waiter just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head and appeared to be as confused as I was.
Entertainment in the theatre was very poor. Once again, attendance at the theatre for me in previous cruises was an experience I looked forward to each day. This was not the case on this cruise. The ship's company of entertainers was very young and lacked any stage presence. The shows were boring and the staging uninspired. Having cruised on a Princess ship last year, I was very disappointed. I have never been on a cruise which did not feature at least one stand up comedian. Eleven nights on a cruise ship without a comedian is eleven long nights. On last year's Princess cruise you had to go early to get a seat in the theatre, it was that popular. Surely, the number of vacant seats should be an indicator to the entertainment director that all is not well. To please a wide cross section of ages and preferences, a cruise line needs a wide cross section of talent. Today's passengers are a savvy lot and what passed for entertainment ten years ago will not pass today. All of the onboard innovations in the world will not make up for a lackluster program of theatre entertainment.
Closing Remarks My husband and I enjoyed our cruise. However the low and lower points were such that we would seriously consider not taking another Celebrity cruise. It is a competitive industry and I hope the executives monitor sites such as this one to evaluate the delivery of their product. When we pay such a high premium to cruise at Christmas and New Years, we expect better "extra touches." A variety of entertainers who are talented is an important part of our cruise experience. A satisfying dining experience is a must. Finally, a security presence which inspires confidence among the passengers is another aspect of cruising which we value. Because of the great need for improvement in all of these areas, I do not think my next cruise will be with Celebrity.
Loved the ship and especially the entertainment in the theater by Linda Gentille. She was spectacular in her show. Very much a Liberace type entertainer but a virtuoso keyboard and comedy performer. The other shows were good too but she was awesome.
We loved the crew and the cruise director Rob LeForest who was so professional and fantastic!!!!!!!
We just returned from a 14 day cruise to Northern Europe on the Constellation.
As usual, Celebrity ships are beautiful and the service is always good -- especially in the dining room and cabin. However, we were very dissapointed with the food in the dining room. We had sailed on the Infinity to Alaska a few years ago and were looking forward to the same excellent cuisine. Unfortunately, the food did not meet our expectations. It was bland, unimaginative and tasteless. There were very few offerings for desserts and those were also tasteless.
To be fair, however, the food selection in the buffet -- especially for breakfast -- was very good.